Speak to an outsider of the North-East and they’ll tell you that Newcastle’s Bigg Market is the place you should visit for an authentic Geordie night out. If sticky floors, watered pints and fights are your bag then this is perfect. Why am I saying this? Because when people decide to go for a Chinese in Newcastle, the natural assumption is that our mini China town known as Stowell Street is the only place to dine. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint, but authentic Asian cuisine can be found elsewhere, and Nudo is a mere stones’ throw from the bustling hub of the main restaurant drag.
Located on Low Friar Street, or a thirty second walk from the O2 Academy, one of the immediate things you’ll notice is the location of Nudo, it it wouldn’t be fair to say that it has a prime location. If anything, Low Friar Street is really at its peak when football fans escape St James Park and use it as a short cut towards Central Station. The seclusion of Nudo means that it’s a classic ‘word of mouth’ restaurant, impressively keeps business through returning trade due to its authentic food that certainly beats those 19p ASDA own-brand super noodles you had in your university or college years.
Fusing Chinese and Japanese food, the menu is varied and causes a genuine dilemma of picking out what to actually have. Because we live in an ideal world, why not have both? After all, it would be rude not to when the prices are this reasonable. Starting off with some sushi, that covered the Japanese side of things and ideally it was time to see the real thing. As much as supermarkets and Yo! Sushi try, it seems unlikely that they hit the taste notes of a meal prepared in Tokyo. It was always my assumption that sushi was just sushi and different varieties were based on the sort of fish and other filling. Kind of how we’d consider a Sunday roast to consist of either lamb, pork, beef or chicken with the trimmings attached.
Looking at the menu there was an exciting dilemma with the various varieties. Should we go for a Futomaki (rolled thick in seaweed with an inner filling), Gunkan (two pieces wrapped in seaweed with a topping), Osomaki (thin rolled with seaweed on the outside), Temaki (cone shaped hand rolls filled with sushi rice with a filling) or even some Sashimi (slice of raw fish on its own)? Being spoilt for choice, from the Futomaki option we picked the deep fried pork cutlet rolls which gave six pieces and from the Gunkan menu, the cooked tuna sushi. With prices starting from £2.50 and reaching £8.50 for a filling of eel or seam bream, there’s a wide variety of fillings that offers more than just a California roll.
As Nudo make all of their sushi fresh on the premises, there might be a wait for their chef to engineer your sushi together. But after a modest wait of fifteen – twenty minutes, two plates of sushi were served to us. When in Rome, or Nudo in this case, do what the Japanese do and with pride I can at least report that no sushi got mutilated through aggressive stabbing through lack of grasping the concept of chopsticks. The pork cutlet rolls seemed like an odd concoction to put in a roll, but the pork was crisp, succulent and all without any grease or excess oil. Likewise, the tuna sushi could be something you pick up from a motivational meal deal at Boots so doing a comparison was interesting. Thankfully, the tuna in Nudo never gave the impression that it was sourced from a tin of partial drained John West, given some spices and wrapped up. Instead two rolls looked like they had been given more care, attention and love than an entire pallet of stock found on the high street. And the roll didn’t disintegrate in your hands.
With rice and fish covered, the main course also diverted to Chinese. One problem, the dish I was after (belly pork in chilli) was in the Jasmine Rice option. As a smiling waitress came over and asked what we wanted for our mains order. After a brief moment of pointing and laughing with her, she realised that noodles were wanted and told us that it wouldn’t be a problem. Even though I’d swapped a key component of the stated dish, it still came on time as my companions order of mix seafood on pan fried noodles.
Only when fiddling with the order did it dawn on me that there were multiple types of noodles that all complemented different dishes. I’d gone for an udon noodle which piled high on the plate and demanded a slight bit of cutting up on my half so no slurping occurred. This time however, the chopsticks didn’t get used and I had to ask for a fork. Queue giggles from the waitress who had previously seen me try, struggle and then admit defeat. My dish was branded with the chilli logo, indicating that it could burn my mouth off. I’ve always ignored this as I never thought it mattered. The spice never caused me to down a pint of water and blow fire out of my mouth in a cartoon style, but it give an element of intensity that almost marinated with the belly pork that was succulent in every possible way. Once the belly pork was gone, the same level of disappointment was similar to when you’re a child and you realise they’re no more Christmas presents left to open. It was cooked to perfection and didn’t seem to be tarnished with the removal of the Jasmine rice. Priced at £7, the temptation to order it in on a lunchtime and take back to my nearby place of work is way too high.
With dessert looming, this really does fall into unknown territory. With most of us filling up on starters and finishing on mains, I’ve never known anyone specifically waiting for a pudding. In the past, banana fritters have often arisen as the stereotype of choice, but something about the homemade green tea ice cream stood out. Feeling. slightly adventurous, it was something that could either work or fail. Whenever I’ve had green tea, I’ve not really tasted any strong flavours, though I was more thankful it was green tea rather than PG Tips. It proved to be a surprise hit when it arrived, instantly cooling the pallet and taking away any faint hints of chilli from the main course away. With three scoops at £4.20, some may wince at the price, but for a unique homemade creation, it proves better value than £4.20 for a slab of pre-bought cake.
For gig goers, Nudo is perfectly located for meeting friends for a catch up meal and drink before heading out into the night. With the restaurant always bustling and delivering a high level of service, Nudo offers affordable Asian cooking which is fresh, healthy and better than any takeaway you’ve ever ordered from.
Check out Nudo for yourself, at 54-56 Low Friar Street (the street between the main entrance to The Gate and Tiger Tiger), Newcastle, NE1 5UE. You can also visit their newest sushi emporiums, ‘Nudo Sushi Box’ on Northumberland Street and Acorn Road, Jesmond. Lovely.